Doctor's Notes on Vomiting and Nausea
Vomiting and nausea are responses to many different illnesses and conditions, and there is no single specific cause of these symptoms. Nausea and vomiting can occur in association with certain infections, foodborne illnesses, food allergies, poisoning, intense pain, pregnancy, gallbladder disease, motion sickness, migraine, and taking certain medications, among other conditions.
The signs and symptoms associated with nausea and vomiting vary widely and depend on the exact condition that is causing the nausea and vomiting. Associated symptoms can include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal pain, abdominal cramping or tenderness, blood in the stool or vomiting blood, headache, skin rash, dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Other possible symptoms that can occur together with vomiting and nausea include severe pain of any type, mental status changes, cough, sore throat, or nasal congestion.
Vomiting and Nausea Symptoms
- Nausea is a feeling of unease that frequently includes an upset stomach, dizziness, and anxiety. There is often an urge to vomit. This sensation often feels as if it comes from the stomach, but it is mostly controlled by the brain.
- Vomiting, however, frequently improves the sensation of nausea, at least temporarily. Vomiting occurs when the stomach forcefully expels its contents out of the mouth. When vomiting continues after all the food and liquid has been forced out, it is called the dry heaves.
- When vomiting leads to dehydration from loss of fluids, the affected person may have increased thirst, dry lips, and dry mouth. The person may not urinate often or urine will be darker in color. In children, signs of dehydration include dry lips and mouth, sunken eyes, rapid breathing, lethargy, and dry diaper, indicating the child is not producing urine.
Vomiting and Nausea Causes
Nausea and vomiting are controlled by the same parts of the brain that control involuntary bodily functions. Vomiting is actually a reflex triggered by a signal from the brain.
The signal to vomit can result from several stimuli such as smells, taste, various illnesses, emotions (such as fear), pain, injury, infection, food irritation, dizziness, motion, and other changes in the body, specifically these:
- Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia)
- Food poisoning
- Certain viral infections
- Motion sickness (car sickness, seasickness)
- Vertigo (the sensation that the room is spinning around)
- Head injuries (such as a concussion or bleeding injury)
- Gallbladder disease
- Migraine (a severe form of headache)
- Brain tumors
- Brain infections (such as meningitis)
- Hydrocephalus (too much fluid in the brain)
- Side effects of anesthesia used for surgery
- Stomach problems such as blockage (pyloric obstruction, a condition that causes forceful spitting up in infants)
- Bleeding into the stomach from different causes
- Infection, irritation, or blockage of the intestines
- Low or high body chemicals and minerals
- Presence of toxins in the body
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Alcohol from beer, wine, and liquor is turned into a chemical (acetaldehyde), which results in the sensation of nausea that is felt the next morning, known as a "hangover"
- Nausea and vomiting occur frequently in pregnancy. Morning sickness usually happens in the first few months but sometimes can last throughout the pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of some medications. Usually nausea is not an allergy to a drug (which is a severe reaction that can include skin rash or trouble breathing), but an unwanted side effect of the medicine. Some medicines such as those used in cancer treatment (chemotherapy), antibiotics like erythomycin, and strong pain killers are well known to cause nausea and vomiting.
That rumbling, gurgling feeling in the pit of your stomach is something we all know. Once it begins to bubble, nausea can quickly lead to vomiting in some cases. Even when it’s the only symptom, nausea can ruin a good day, and may soon find you running for your medicine cabinet. But maybe you should be running for a glass of water, or even a natural remedy like ginger. Then again, depending on your symptoms, it’s possible that you should head directly to the doctor.
In this article, our medical experts provide details about home remedies and other treatments for nausea and vomiting. You will learn some of the common causes, such as pregnancy, morning sickness, and food poisoning, as well as foods that can ease an upset stomach. Discover the remedies that will help you take charge of your health, and the health of your family.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.